Darren Pereira took a small step towards fulfilling his late father Jerome’s dream of him becoming a tennis champion by beating Bombay International School’s (Babulnath) Ahir Ratagadi 6-4 to enter the boys’ U-12 quarter-final of the Mumbai Schools Sports Association (MSSA) inter-school lawn tennis tournament at the Maharashtra State Lawn Tennis Association (MSLTA) courts.
Darren’s father lost his battle with cancer last year and it was his wish to see the 11-year-old become a tennis great like Leander Paes. Darren’s mother Sandra was a bit emotional reminiscing about how Darren, the youngest of four siblings, struggled to come to terms with his father’s death.
“Jerome was Darren’s hero. His death affected him the most. It was Jerome who introduced Darren to the sport as a five-year-old. Later, his elder sister Lisa (29) became his coach and he still trains with her at ‘The Club’ in Andheri. Of all my kids, Darren is the most adored and pampered,” she told MiD DAY yesterday.
Recollecting memories of his dad, Darren said: “My father was my first coach. It’s because of him that I started playing tennis. He was very particular about me getting the basics right. He would make me practice shots until I got them right. I miss him.”
The Dr S Radhakrishnan Vidyalaya (Malad) student also revealed that last year he couldn’t play any tournaments due to two reasons: his father was critical and the principal of his former school, St Joseph’s (Malad), wasn’t supportive of him playing tennis.
“I had to change my school this year as my previous school wasn’t too supportive of me playing tennis. Also, dad wasn’t keeping well and I wanted to spend as much time as possible with him. It took me almost a year to come to terms with the fact that he is no more. I want to fulfill my dad’s dream of me playing tennis at the international level like Leander.
“My sister Lisa is my driving force now. My mother has also sacrificed a lot. She has helped me cope with my dad’s demise. Today, she is my strength,” said Darren, who idolises Swiss ace Roger Federer.